LOS ANGELES – First came love. Then came marriage — but maybe not a baby carriage.
“Just the two of us is awesome,” said Sara Tenenbein, a 30-year-old blogger and consultant living with her husband in Los Angeles.
Not having children is still rare among married women such as Tenenbein, but less so than it used to be, according to an analysis by the National Center for Family & Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University, which examined figures from the National Survey of Family Growth.
The percentage of married women ages 40 to 44 who had no biological children and no other kids in the household, such as adopted children or stepkids, reached 6 percent between 2006 and 2010. That’s a small but statistically significant jump since 1988, when the figure was 4.5 percent.
The increased numbers echo a wider trend over recent decades.
Most women who don’t have children are not married — and the vast majority of married women ultimately have kids, federal statistics show. In fact, the dropping marriage rate is one of the biggest forces behind increased childlessness, Arizona State University associate Prof. Sarah Hayford found.
But the uptick in childlessness among married women, albeit slight, is another sign of the evolving meaning of marriage, said Susan L. Brown, co-director of the National Center for Family & Marriage Research.
Marriage is slowly becoming less firmly hitched to child rearing, as ideas about why to wed have shifted, and rearing kids out of wedlock becomes more common. Putting off parenthood also has given married couples more time to weigh whether they want children at all.
“There’s a resistance to parenthood being the default after marriage,” Childless by Choice Project director Laura S. Scott said. “People are questioning it in ways that they didn’t perhaps 30 or 40 or 50 years ago.”
A Pew Research Center survey three years ago found that Americans rated love, lifelong commitment and companionship as more important reasons to wed than having children. Earlier Pew surveys found a shrinking percentage of adults who said children were very important to a successful marriage.